You’re probably familiar with Chinese hot pot. For those who need a refresher, hot pot is a simmering pot of stock placed directly on the dining table that’s used to cook meat, fish, and veggies. It’s typically spicy and delicious, and makes you work for your food a little harder than usual. But lately, we’ve been preoccupied with a dish that’s similar in flavor but different in structure: dry pot.
Dry pot is exactly what it sounds like. It uses similar Chinese flavors and ingredients that you’d find in hot pot, but it’s cooked dry with spices rather than in a broth. It’s a more modern dish, created in southern China in the 1970s to introduce a quicker way to dine. Our first dry pot experience was at Málà Project, a new-school Chinese restaurant in New York City’s East Village neighborhood that offers authentic delicacies and preparations.
Whether you’re a big meat eater or a vegetarian, Málà Project caters to all appetites and dietary restrictions with a long list of ingredients to customize your own dry pot. We piled ours high with things like duck tongue, mushrooms, rice cakes, and roe-filled fish balls, then devoured the entire dish, slowly but surely (the spice makes you eat at a leisurely pace, which is always better for digestion anyway). People love Málà Project so much, the restaurant just opened another New York location near Bryant Park.
Because we can’t stop thinking about that dry pot meal, we decided to explore Chinese restaurants across the country that specialize in the dish so you can get your fix too. Check out these six best restaurants to get your spice on.
Good Harvest (Multiple Locations)
This beloved chain first opened in 2006 and now has 50 locations in China and three in the United States: two in New York City and one in Cary, North Carolina. Good Harvest serves traditional hot pot and crispy charpati, which are flatbreads stuffed with goodies like green onions, eggs, even durian. But the main attraction is their selection of dry fish pots, which are available in a variety of spice levels, pepper flavors, and proteins.
Sizzling Gourmet (Cupertino, California)
The menu at Sizzling Gourmet lets you choose your own adventure when building your dry pot, and the friendly staff is on hand to help with protein and veggie combos, sauces, and spice level. You can pick standards like chicken or squid, or get funky with delicacies like frog and beef tongue. The long list of sides you can add to your dish makes for endless combos —and irresistible leftovers.
Sichuan River (Austin, Texas)
Fans of Sichuan food will be happy to know that the menu at Sichuan River contains very few Americanized dishes (but the few that they do have will satisfy any picky Chinese food newbie). This eatery has a large menu with specialties like chicken feet with pickled peppers and egg foo young, along with a section for dry pot. The selection here is small but mighty with straightforward preparations like lamb, chicken, and pork chops.
Happy Dining (Irvine, California)
Happy Dining opened almost three years ago in Irvine, California, and has been filling the Orange County dry pot void ever since. The Chinese restaurant offers one of the best deals on this list, as a small bowl goes for about $10 and serves one to two people. Think specialties like beef tripe, catfish, lamb, pigs feet, and crab doused in sizzling spice.
Peking Hot Pot (Columbus, Ohio)
Hui Li, owner of Peking Hot Pot, longed for the flavors of her native China, so she took matters into her own hands when she opened Peking Hot Pot two years ago. Like the name implies, you can get your hot pot fix if you want, but we suggest springing for the dry pot. Build your own with ingredients like enoki mushrooms, quail egg, and whole shrimp, or go for one of the signatures like spicy grilled tilapia.
Sze Chuan Cuisine (Chicago, Illinois)
Known for serving some of the spiciest Sichuan dishes in Chicago’s Chinatown, fans of tongue-numbing flavor flock to Sze Chuan Cuisine. Their dry pot selection in’t huge but includes delicious dishes like rabbit with green peppercorns and, for fans of offal, pork intestine. If you’re into a little pain, get an order of the insanely spicy mapo tofu for the table.